CHICAGO — The city's Police Department is rolling out a new fleet of police cars starting Thursday morning.
Forty of the police cars will be deployed on Thursday morning, and there will be 550 patrolling the city by early 2018, according to a Chicago Police news release. The cars feature new lights and mobile computers so officers can use tools like police databases, crime cameras and real-time crime mapping while on the go.
Supt. Eddie Johnson, speaking at a Thursday news conference, said he hopes the cars — and the technology they come with — can help make neighborhoods safer.
Police in the cars "will have at their fingertips a host of tools that will help them be smarter, faster and safer," Johnson said. "Those are the qualities that we need them to exhibit every day to be one step ahead of the criminals that pull the trigger in some of our most violent neighborhoods."
The cars, all Ford Explorers and Interceptors, were built at Chicago's own Ford Assembly Plant, 12600 S. Torrence Ave.
The city borrowed $25 million in October to pay for the cars, which will serve the hundreds of new officers being recruited by Chicago Police to re-fill their ranks. The new cars will replace police cars that are more than a decade old and have more than 100,000 miles on them.
Chicago Police have been equipping districts and officers with new technology in a bid to combat crime while raising morale among the rank and file.
The Englewood and Harrison districts were equipped with ShotSpotter systems that listen for gunshots, video cameras that can turn to record where a shooting occurred and Strategic Decision Support Centers where officers work hand-in-hand with crime analysts.
The new cars in the districts with ShotSpotter will receive real-time updates from the system.
Those programs are expanding to more districts, and Chicago Police have said they've seen downturns in shootings and murders in the area where improved technology has been brought in. That's helped officer morale in turn, police said.